Commonwealth and WHO sign Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen collaboration on public health issues

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The Commonwealth Secretariat and the World Health Organization (WHO) today signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing to enhance their collaboration on a wide range of public health issues of particular interest to Member States and Commonwealth governments, such as responding to COVID -19, vaccine equity, promoting universal health coverage and building resilient health systems.

The MoU was signed in a ceremony held at WHO headquarters in Geneva by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, and WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The Commonwealth Secretariat plays an important role in promoting and supporting greater cohesion between Member States and governments across a range of policy and program areas. By signing the document, the two parties agreed to work together and strengthen the exchange of information on seven priority areas:

Promote universal health coverage and primary health care

Strengthen global health security

Promote healthy environments

Promoting the health of vulnerable groups

Transforming lifelong learning for health impact

Building a data partnership

Create space for innovation and knowledge exchange

This collaboration underscores the long-standing commitment of the Commonwealth Secretariat and WHO to ensuring equitable access to quality health services and to promoting the health and well-being of all.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, The Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC said:

“Equitable access to vaccines is the world’s most urgent political, economic, social and moral priority. Without effective and timely action on vaccines, we face an unending global health crisis that will reduce our entire wealth and our security.

“And the most effective way for the world to meet this challenge and others that we face, whether it’s COVID-19, climate change or universal health coverage, is to work through the through multilateral institutions such as the Commonwealth Secretariat and the World Health Organization.

“The Memorandum of Understanding we signed today demonstrates that the two organizations share a vision of cooperation and action in the face of these challenges, as well as a commitment to creating the conditions for people to thrive. It is a pleasure to work with colleagues across the World Health Organization and I hope this agreement will allow us to work more efficiently and productively in the future.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Partnership is essential to ensure that everyone can achieve the highest possible level of health. The new agreement between the World Health Organization and the Commonwealth Secretariat reflects the importance of working together to promote and protect the well-being of people. WHO’s commitment to supporting all Commonwealth countries will be reinforced through our commitment to promoting universal health coverage, global health security and ensuring vulnerable groups receive all the support they need to lead healthy lives. . »

Advance efforts to build stronger health systems

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed immense pressure on global health systems, particularly those in developing countries with weaker health systems, halting the progress made over the past 20 years towards achieving the goals of health-related sustainable development. This, in turn, has jeopardized the prevention and treatment of life-threatening diseases, including cancers, diabetes, heart disease and malaria. The Commonwealth is disproportionately affected by a number of preventable diseases. The 25 Commonwealth malaria-endemic countries account for 56% of global malaria deaths and 54% of global malaria cases. Members of the Commonwealth account for 40% of global cervical cancer incidence and 43% of cervical cancer mortality, despite representing only 30% of the world’s population. The Commonwealth and WHO will therefore strengthen their cooperation to step up global efforts to improve health outcomes across the Commonwealth. This partnership will also contribute to the common goal of accelerating the elimination of malaria and blinding trachoma, and eliminating cervical cancer, as universally endorsed by Commonwealth Heads of Government.

Leave no one behind in the fight against COVID-19

The signing of the MoU comes against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to pose a significant threat to public health, including the spread of new, highly contagious variants.

As of January 31, 2022, over 77 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the Commonwealth, with hundreds of thousands of new cases reported daily. Additionally, 42% of Commonwealth citizens are fully immunized. The percentage of fully immunized people ranges from 23% in African Commonwealth countries to 43% in the WHO Region of the Americas and 56% in the WHO Western Pacific Region.

These figures reflect the global trend that high- and upper-middle-income countries purchase and administer a significant proportion of the total number of vaccines.1

On this occasion, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring equitable access and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and to advancing WHO’s goal of immunizing 70% of the world’s population by July 2022. .

The signing ceremony was attended virtually by Ambassadors from Commonwealth Member States in Geneva and included remarks from Ministers and Ambassadors representing Commonwealth regions, all of whom welcomed the partnership.

(With contributions from APO)

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